Intriguingly, while Prince Edward Island
offers the “newest” playwright in this anthology in Melissa Mullen, it
also provides one of the most senior and celebrated in Kent Stetson.
Recipient of numerous honours, including the Governor General's
Literary Award for English Drama and the Canadian Authors' Association's
inaugural Carol Bolt Award for Excellence in Drama, Stetson’s presence
nationally and internationally is firmly established. Yet, with
the enigmatically titled Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight (which will
not be explained in this introduction), the playwright offers what is
perhaps the most specifically regional drama of this entire collection.
One of Stetson’s earliest plays is also
one of his best known. Warm Wind in China (1988) proved a
landmark work, both personally for the dramatist and within Canadian
theatre. The first popular, full-length drama to address the
plight of AIDS victims in this country, the play was both controversial and actively
championed at home and abroad.
As Stetson reported to Dawn
Rae Downton, the work was intended as much, if not more, as a gesture
of consolation as of protest: (quotation) Warm Wind in China was
written as a memorial, a tribute to the courage of the gay community
where not enough tribute, if any, has been
“I wrote it as a balm,” [Stetson] says,
spelling the word
out, “not as a bomb so much. It’s for those who have lost, who
will lose. Perhaps its for the curious, but it’s also for
compassionate people. Art can be a great comforter.” (quotation)
This motivation is reiterated within Stetson’s Playwright’s Note to Warm Wind in China, in which he both
laments the response of the general public to the emerging AIDS crisis
and praises the actions of the gay community in the face of rejection
“We were on our own. This time
we knew who we were. We rallied and, informed more by compassion than fear, we began
again. Stories of heroism emerged from behind viral ghetto
walls. Warm Wind in China is dedicated to friends and lovers and
those who seek to understand.”
Subsequent dramas have revealed the
playwright as increasingly curious and versatile in terms of genre and
dramatic form. Among the many titles in his resume can be found a
wide stylistic range, including romantic comedy, murder mystery, and
popular film. Stetson approaches all of these conventions with a winning
combination of respect for tradition and a readiness to mix, match, and
swap compositional strategies and tropes.
Yet, throughout much of
these works, the author also retains a common attraction for
human-interest subject matter and, with increasing emphasis, a
fascination with the potential for “heroism” among otherwise ordinary
individuals. His Governor General Award-winning play The Harps of
God (1997) is explicitly “heroic” in all its aspects—scope, structure,
situation, characterization, language, and symbolism—and successfully
elevates a cruel and potentially pathetic disaster to the heights of
myth. Based on an actual
event of 1914 in which 132 seal hunters were stranded on the ice flows
off Newfoundland for two full days and nights, The Harps of God
effectively portrays the growing desperation of the stranded men as the
conditions of their prolonged exile shift from dire to absurd.
The play is most
striking in its verbal patterning that effectively combines raw,
colourful Newfoundland dialects with a rarefied lyricism worthy of his
classical aspirations. A classically structured, three act
tragedy for 20 performers, the drama enacts the playwright’s desire, as
described in his Playwright’s Note in the published version of the
text, to “talk big” and to escape the shrinking ambitions of a
contemporary Canadian dramatic landscape of “[s]mall plays, more naturally aligned to popular television
writing than the great classics of the world theatrical repertoire.”
It is perhaps ironic, therefore, that
Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight is subtitled “a play for one
actor.” Moving from the vast ice flows off Newfoundland into a
barn on a rural Prince Edward Island farm, everything about Horse High
is scaled down, more tightly focused, and distilled. Whereas The
Harps of God presents a sprawling, panoramic landscape, this later play
explores decidedly interior terrain, in which the multiple characters
(thirteen, in total) are the creations
of one man’s tumultuous memories and heated imagination. And
whereas it is the threatened loss of a mass of humanity that provides
the stakes in the sealing narrative, it is the impending loss of land,
heritage, dignity, and history—both personal and cultural—that fuels the intense solo show included in this
Developed through heritage funding from the province
of PEI and in close collaboration with actor and fellow “Islander” Rob
McLean (then Artistic Director of Theatre Prince Edward Island),
Horse High is a distinctly personal play about “community” in its multiple,
occasionally contradictory manifestations. As an elegy, it
shrewdly combines the creativity of nostalgia with the 20/20 vision of
Peter, an elderly farmer who has
outlived his loved ones and who faces the utter loss of his land
through the machinations of his own son, prepares for death. His
past, however, is not about to let him off that easy. Stormed by
spirits, memories, unfulfilled aspirations, and his own unresolved
outrage, he enacts (at times literally) a wild ride through the
circumstances of his life and, perhaps, demise.
The rhythms of
this journey are lyrical, elliptical, robust, and animated, and both the text and its performance
create a poetic dance of humour, empathy, and imagination. A
heartfelt and, at times, heartsick homage to both a disappearing way of
life and an enduring commitment to tradition and cultural heritage,
Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight concludes this anthology with an
impassioned and compassionate declaration of regional distinctiveness
PETER CRAWLS OUT OF HIS BURLAP/TARP/FIR-BOUGH
DRESSED FOR A DAY’S WORK IN COVERALLS AND A SOCK HAT.
HE WASHES HIS FACE WITH DEW-DAMPENED GRASS.
PETER: Last night, at the Minah Bird in Charlottetown
I got tight as a pig.
Why? You might well ask.
Why the hell not, says I?
The world’s goin’ to hell in a
We were grading potatoes, eh?
Over at Ernie Mosher’s.
Now there’s a farmer, boy oh boy.
I’m five foot ten, eh?
The cellar’s five foot four.
Tear the back right outa ya.
They let me sleep upstairs.
Some prim that house.
I ain’t complainin’.
Ethel Mosher cranks out the grub
Like Wrigleys cranks out chewin’
God! The do-dads.
Crocheted this, tatted that,
knitted the other.
Everything stuffed, fluffed
Quilted and stitched, hooked and
To within an inch of it’s life.
You’d think Lucy Maude slept
One mornin’ Ethel finds me in bed
with me boots on...
Fully dressed, eh?
Coat, sock hat, mitts...
There’s a puddle of somethin’
nasty in the corner,
Soakin’ into her grandmother’s
I was fed up there anyway.
Though I gotta say
It was better than stumbling
drunk through a February gale.
Sleeping in a snow bank.
Freezing to death.
Dyin’ in a ditch.
Like poor Garth.
Like poor me.
I’m forking the potatoes onto the
low end of the grader.
Great big potato fork, like a big
short-handled shovel, only with tines.
Ernie’s cranking the handle
Movin’ the potatoes up on the
Two and a half inch mesh big
enough for the seconds to fall through.
They roll down along underneath
into a basket, eh,
I feed them to the cows and hogs
Along with the culls.
Some people plant the seconds
“Too lazy to cut proper sets.”
Ernie’s Missus is pickin’ rocks
and culls with the Old Fella.
Ernie’s flippin’ the paddle at
the bagger, sewin’ and pilin’ the bags.
Loman McCauley on CFCY tells us
Put this little round thing
called a Sputnik up into outer space.
Not that little.
I’m drinkin’ me Saturday
night case of beers,
In at the Minah Bird on Sydney
Tryin’ to make sense out ‘a one
‘a them Roossian sailors
Off the potato boat from
Tied up there at the railway
wharf in Charlottetown.
In comes this loud mouthed son of
a who-oo cut your hair last
And starts going on about how he
A space ship full of Roossian
There was no Martians in the
Spootnik, Roossian or otherwise.
Not accordin’ to Loman.
Anyways, I knew what’s what, eh?
I tell him about the 3,000 pound
Floatin’ around up
He calls me a friggin’ liar.
“Nothin that heavy could stay up
in the air,” says he.
“Not without no wings.”
I call him a Charlottetown fool.
He calls me a stunned country
And we go at it.
Everybody’s cheerin’ us on,
Even these Charlottetown police
And them two RCMP lads that used
t’a get drunk and waltz together.
I seen some pretty queer sights
at The Minah Bird.
The Minah Bird’s some popular
with the police
Even though they have to shut her
down every now and then
‘Cause it’s a bootlegger, eh?
I’m strong as a bull, but slow.
He’s fast and dirty — a wiry
little town fella,
Learned to fight on Douglas
Them Irish Catholics are an awful
bunch with the boots.
They get you down on the ground
at boot level
You can say farewell to your
I lost these two that night.
I hitch-hiked a ride home with
the queer priest from Souris.
He was a regular at the Minah and
a bugger to drink.
He was awful fond of them
And one or two of them took a
fancy to His Holiness,
Which is what I took to callin’
The stuff that went on at the
Minah’d curl your hair.
I was a terrible lad for the
Though some of the ‘girls’ at the
Minah’d seen better days.
We come around the bend in
Mind you every body’s
around the bend in Dunstaffnage,
Just ask Beth MacIssac.
She cut up their Christmas tree
After their school concert —
In our Hall, which we lent them
every year —
Cut up their tree with a vengeance
So we couldn’t use it for our
And them buggers — the big lads —
The kind ‘a fellas that gets
kicked outa grade two for not shavin’...
Big, stunned, hulkin’ lads strong
as oxes and just as smart,
Used to pelt us with fudge from
the back of the hall
When we was doin’ our recitations.
Little kids six and seven,
Doin’ the Merry Christmas
Poor Wendell Acorn was at the end
Merry, so he had ‘Y’.
“ ‘Y’ is for the Yuletide, the
best time of the year,”
Is what he was supposed to
“Wha... wha... why...”
Poor Wendell stuttered something
“Wha... wha... why...”
One of them Thompson lads
Or was it a MacCallum —
Let go with a huge rock ‘a Margie
Dunning’s brown sugar fudge,
Clipped poor Wendell right on the
side of the head.
That got him started.
“Wha... wha... WHY... is the mule
tied, the best time of the year?”
The mule tide! Honest to
The place near come down with the
Poor Wendell never knew what hit
And he never stuttered on word
from that night forward.
Mind you, he become a little hard
But it was all in good fun.
The Women’s Institute started
makin’ the Divinity fudge after that.
Never hurt as bad as the brown
Made a terrible splat, though.
And stuck like two-day old
They started cuttin’ the corners
outa the little paper bags, eh?
So the big lads at the back
couldn’t explode them
In the middle of the little kids
But that’s another story.
Any way, we come around the bend
And there’s this great big
Dunstaffnage pig —
A dandy big porker —
Lyin’ right in the middle of the
We screech to a stop and Mr. Pig
jumps to his trotters,
Trots a few paces down this
Turns and looks back, like a dog
that wants you to follow.
So that’s what we done.
We come to this little shack.
Inside, buddy’s drunk.
Some queer old bachelor livin’
Just him and his pig —
A sow, it turns out, not a boar.
There was nothin’ queer about
The little pot bellied stove is
Buddie’s drunk asleep,
And the heat man dear would stun
The places smells sour.
His socks and underwear —
He wore the combinations, pure
wool, eh, —
Was smokin’ — not steamin’.
They was smokin’!
The pig ‘s squealin’, agitated no
We drag Buddy out, lay him on the
lane naked as a jay bird,
Just as the tar paper ignites.
Up she goes —
In a shower of smoke and flame,
Sparks trailin’ up past the
Flickerin’ out among the
Down comes your dog house,
And forty feet of your barn!
The pig starts rootin’ at Buddy,
And flips him, right over onto
Buddy sits up,
Looks at us, looks at his hog
Takes in what’s goin’ on and says,
“Oh, me house. Me
house. Me poor little house.”
The pig comes over and lies down
Honest to God.
If you don’t believe me, ask the
queer Priest from Souris.
That pig lay right down beside
Like poor Jesse Compton who was
soft in the head.
Him and his old brother Albert
lived alone on the farm, eh?
One day a gust of wind caught the
big barn door
And poor old Albert got knocked
Out like a light.
Like I say, poor Jesse never had
any kind of a clue.
He didn’t know what to do.
So... he just lay down along side
His arm under Albert’s head
Talkin’ to him.
(Sings) ‘You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine...’
Waitin’ for Albert to wake up.
Or someone to come along.
Albert never did wake up.
And no one come along.
My, my, my.
I stopped by Buddy’s a few weeks
He’d built himself a brand new
tar paper shack...
The neighbors took up a
And there on this brand new
Lay this same great big pig.
Buddy asks me to sit down
So I slap the hog to get up and
And Buddy says,
“Don’t slap Iris. If you
want her to move, just ask her.”
And she did!
Me and Iris and Buddy became the
best of friends.
I lived there the rest of the
They say ‘drunk as a pig,’ eh?
But Iris could hold her
liquor better than either one of us.
They was both drunk as pigs that
night she went out
And lay down on the road.
The night Iris the tight pig lay
down on the road
Willin’ to give her all
To save her buddy Buddy’s life.
Greater love hath no pig,
Horse high, bull strong, pig
Dad used t’a say that when we
I got no idea what on God’s green
earth it means.
Somehow or other it makes me feel
Oh my, my, my.
If I ever see him again,
In heaven or someplace,
I’ll have to remember to ask him.
I near had a heart attack one
I was goin’ across this field up
west where I was workin’
Right after a snow storm, eh?
The sun was turnin’ warm again...
The sky was blue as it gets.
I stopped to take it all in.
I hear some fella breathin’, and
I know it’s me.
I hear this heart beatin’, and I
know it’s mine.
I hear this low murmur somewhere
Sounded like the baby Moses done,
When he was left in the bulrushes.
Cooin’ and peepin’.
The snow had a little thin crust,
The sun melting it,
The cold from below makin’ it ice.
I heard this peckin’.
Then cooin’ and peepin’.
Up outa the snow,
Flyin’ straight up
Like a dozen rockets
Shoots a flock a’ partridges!
Sheets of ice thin as paper,
And powdery flakes of snow catch
the light of the sun.
A million diamonds fall back to
Man dear what a sight!
Somethin’ spooks the partridges
off of their perches in the night, eh?
Weasels or somethin’.
They light out ‘a their spruce
Fly blind, way out into the
storm, and dive head first into the snow.
And that’s where they spend the
Safe and sound, out a’ harms way.
How do they learn such a thing in
the first place?
Mother nature is a wonderful
A couple ‘a weeks later,
There was another tail twister.
There was snow up to the ‘phone
wires that mornin’.
People was shovellin’ the snow
off of the barn roofs,
For fear they might cave in.
Harry goes out for the Guardian
And hears somethin’ under the
It was me.
I was cooin’ and peepin’.
Like Moses in the bulrushes.
Like a partridge, in me snow
The queer priest from Souris
never showed up that night
I was walkin’ out to see Buddy
I guess I got lost in the storm.
I guess I thought I was a
I guess I must ‘a flew headfirst
Right into the ditch.
Chased by me own friggin’ weasel.
Red ‘Moon’ Piggot.
Hog of a man.
“I don’t care if she is your
You crazy young son of a bitch.
Get your arse off of my farm —
My farm —
Before I put the boots to you
Lucky thing Harry was a
He new about the partridges.
I’m laying on the daybed by the
Harry’s drinkin’ tea, readin’ the
Not sayin’ a word.
Harry was a real gentleman.
I tried to stand up.
“I gotta get goin,” says I.
HARRY: Not today you won’t.
And most likely not this week.
You stand on those feet,
You’ll be known hence forth as
the toeless wonder.
PETER: I can’t lie around here for a week...
HARRY: I presumed you can’t pay for a stay in hospital
I and asked my new secretary,
To tend to you.
We’ll get you upstairs,
And there you’ll stay
‘Til you’re fit to walk.
PETER: You know those times your mouth flies open and
you ask a question
Even though you know the answer?
“Who’s Lilly McCauley, when she’s
home?” Says I, bein’ smart.
I already knew, eh?
Seen her last week when I come to
the back door beggin’ grub.
Beggin’ grub at the back door of
me own house.
God help me.
“Give us somethin’ to eat missus.”
And she did.
HARRY: Lilly’s just home from Toronto.
She’s the new secretary in the
PETER: ‘Lilly McCauley is to be my wife,
Catholic or not!’ says I,
HARRY: I wouldn’t know about that.
PETER REMOVES HIS COVERALL AND SOCK HAT. HE
SEATS HIMSELF BACK IN THE LAWN CHAIR.
PETER: (In the present, age 79)
Dr. Harry saved my life.
You saved my soul.
I miss you somethin’
(Shivers) Perishin’ cold.
Why ain’t I dead yet?
I’m tough as a boiled owl.
I should took a’ hold of the
fool’s twenty two and...
I’d rather go quiet and dignified.
Besides, I’ll never see my Lilly
if I take my own...
Do myself in.
(Shudder, intense, protracted)
It’s a bugger.
It’d take your breath.
If I close my eyes right tight...
I can see you.
If I let go, will you catch me?
Will you catch me on the other
END ACT ONE
Scene 1: PETER, IN BED.
There’s a terrible stench
Comin’ out from under these
LILLY: I’m not your ‘missus.’
PETER: Not yet your not, says I to myself.
God she was beautiful.
Eight years later, she was Mrs
But that’s another story.
LILLY: I smelled worse.
The doctor says you’ll lose the
small toe on your right foot,
The nails on both your big toes.
LILLY: Not bad for a drunken fool passed out in
Coldest night so far, winter of
What in the name of God were you
PETER: I wasn’t thinkin’.
That’s the point.
LILLY: You’re not a bad lookin’ fella.
How come you’re not married at
PETER: Lilly was a scratchy little
She never lit anywhere for more
than a second.
Always diggin’ and wipin’ and
Bakin’ and picklin’ and goin’ on.
God! that woman could
She’d have her row planted and be
halfway down yours
Before you’d cut a dozen sets.
She was one of those women who
picked potatoes standing up,
Bent over at an angle that’d
break a normal back.
Of course she was built pretty
low to the ground.
“She’s small, but she’s wound
That’s what Dr. Harry used to
And laugh! God!
The laugh on her would get
She hated smut, though.
And had no patience with
LILLY: I hate liquor worse than I hate smut.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
What makes a fella like you,
From a good Island family,
A man well set up by God and
Turn into a drunk?
PETER: Hold your horses there Missus.
I may throw a case or two into me
now and then.
But I’m no drunk.
LILLY: You ain’t losin’ them toes to sobriety.
PETER: She went at me like that for days.
I would ‘a run like hell
If I could ‘a.
Will you shut your mouth if I
LILLY: Quit calling me Lilly Belle.
You make me sound like one ‘a
Ten cent kewpie dolls.
PETER: Where’s the poor fella now?
LILLY: Who? Soggy?
PETER: No. I know where Soggy’s to!
Off at some exhibition in Florida
with his mid-way,
Where he’s supposed to be, in the
dead of winter.
LILLY: Doug? Last I seen him,
He was beggin’ quarters on Yonge
PETER: And you run home to the Island,
Tail between your
LILLY: You smug friggin’ Calvinists!
There’s something you need to
Mr. High and Mighty Peter
For once in your God forsaken
Just shut your yap and listen.
PETER: This queer look come over Lilly.
She sat on my bed.
LILLY: When you’re born on the Island,
The second they cut your
Another cord sprouts out ‘a
Shoots right out and plants
itself in the soil
Takes root in the bedrock.
You’re attached to P.E.I. forever.
PETER: I took it in and said to myself
God help me.
The woman’s crazy as a bag of
That’s a pretty queer notion,
If you ask me.
LILLY: I’m not askin’ I’m tellin’ you.
It’s made outa’... well, ah...
It’s right flexible, eh?
Tough. Right elastic.
You can go pretty much anywhere
on the earth
And it’s still there,
Sprouting outa’ yer belly
Attached to the red rocks of home.
Anywhere but Toronto.
Starts to fray the minute you get
off the bus in Toronto.
Soon your floatin’ away like a
kid’s balloon at the exhibition.
PETER: Lilly took my hand,
LILLY: Sometimes life gives you a terrible clip
On the side of the head
That sends you reelin’.
The gold cord snaps.
Worst thing that can happen to an
I think that’s what happened to
I think some mean bugger snipped
But do you know, it grows back if
you let it.
PETER: Lilly touched my neck.
LILLY: What happened to your throat?
PETER: My cord got clipped in France.
Started growin’ back, like you
Soon as I got home to the Island.
Then Red Moon Piggot clipped it
for good, altogether.
Lilly Belle? I
LILLY: No, Peter.
I promised my mother I’d die
Before I’d marry another
PETER: I’ll turn Catholic.
LILLY: I’m still a married woman.
Everyone... needs somebody.
So are you.
We’re that lonesome, the two of
We’re mad as a pair of waltzing
I’ll be the next best thing to
I’ll be your... companion.
PETER: “My wife, without getting married?” says I.
LILLY: Call it what you like.
The night you went delirious
I lifted the blankets and had a
good long look at your hardware.
PETER: Jasus, woman!
LILLY: I never touched ye!
You appear satisfactory.
I suppose everything’s in workin’
PETER: Is that how women act up there in Toronto?
LILLY: There’s two things I like in bed:
One is natural ability;
The other is enthusiasm.
There’s nothin’ quicker than
liquor to deflate a man’s... pride.
I am not takin’ up with another
I spoke to Harry.
He needs someone to run things
House, barn and field as they
He’s asked us to stay on.
I agreed on your
We’ll work fifty fifty.
PETER: That’s decent of ye —
LILLY: Someday perhaps I will be your wife.
If that mean son of a gun
Freezes to death on Yonge street,
Which I hope — No.
I’ll be with you in every way a
woman can be with a man.
But I won’t marry a protestant.
And I won’t shut up.
PETER: Nor did she.
I told Lilly
That I’d take on her and the farm
Providin’ we got married if
I’d father no bastards.
Catholic or no,
She’d either have to prevent
Ah... you know... in the family
Or she’d have to get a divorce.
Terrible choice for a Catholic.
She was good as her word, eh —
For eight years.
‘Till the fool was born.
I told her something else,
Somethin’ I never told anyone
Except Dad one frosty mornin’
Lilly. All I want is to be a good
And what’s that, says she?
Well, I guess I never thought
about it ‘till then.
So I thought of Dad,
Puffed up me chest, opened me
This is what come out.
A good farmer is a big, solid
robust chunk of a man.
He’s intelligent, resourceful and
he’s not afraid of hard work.
He thrives on it.
He seems awful quiet,
But when you get to know him
You see he guards his character —
Not like somethin’ bought or sold;
Like somethin’ precious
That come to him, from God,
The soil below, and his father
Queen of the Earth,
Works hand in glove
With God the King of Heaven
To keep him
The fruitfulness of his land,
The strength of his animals;
The health of his wife, his
children, himself, his community —
All his labor, all his hope,
The ruined crops, the bins over
Everything that makes him a good
Is tied to Mother Nature’s bounty,
And the whims of Almighty God.
“Faith is the substance of things
hoped for, eh?
The evidence of things not
I never seen it fail.
A good farmer makes a dandy boss.
I worked for farmers whose land
was always in top form,
Every body for miles cryin’
drought or flood
Blight or bugs or this or that.
You’d walk onto a good farm in
And honest to God...
The feelin’ of the place.
I’d say heaven on earth.
The first thing you notice is the
Barbed wire singin’ tight,
Stapled to good solid fir posts,
striped and painted.
Limed, in the old days.
Ether side of the lane,
If the house and barns are set
back a ways,
There’ll be a pair of fields the
sight of which
Will do your heart good.
Over there’s a stand of timothy,
A day or two before comin’ into
Today’s the day he’ll cut
He’ll have her down and tedded,
Raked, coiled, pitched and stowed
within’ two days.
And there’s twelve acres of seed
Just comin’ into
Not a hint of mosaic, black leg,
leaf roll —
Rogued to perfection.
Not a lamb’s quarter
Nor a show of mustard to be seen.
Behind the house is a stand of
The smell waftin’ in the bedroom
First thing on a July mornin’,
You wake up whistlin’!
The pond by the road
Is quackin’ full of big fat
White geese are flappin’ and
And goin’ on somethin’ wicket.
The pasture‘s some lush, eh?
The cows goin’ at it like there’s
Bags full to burstin’,
Teats stickin’ straight out
Waitin’ for ya at the gate to the
Bawlin’ for relief,
They’re that full of milk.
Calves buntin’ and suckin’
Jumpin’ and runnin’,
‘Till of a sudden
Their hind quarters hunkers down,
Their front legs fold’s under...
Out on the
There’s not a calf awake or
The cows soon follow.
Down they go.
Up come their cuds.
And down comes the rain.
The soil sucks up moisture like a
You can hear it seepin’ in.
It pours, boys.
Grass, leaves, fruits and berries
Everything’s washed clean.
Just... shinin’ clean.
Round up the Missus and the
Hop in the car and go for a drive!
Out through Meadow Bank and New
Out around Rocky Point, eh?
The Island sky is never so blue,
Her clouds as white and noble;
The air is never as sweet and
Holsteins never so black and white
Grazin’ grass that’s never
The soil ‘s never so red...
The Island herself is never as
As on a June
After a good rain.
The settin’ sun pours out
Through scarlet clouds
Clouds as high as mountains
Trimmed with shimmerin’ gold...
My my my.
Poor Harry, despite bein’ a
professor and all,
Was useless as tits on a bull
when it come to farmin’.
But he’d come out with these
That’d stop you in your tracks.
“The wind is God’s breath,”
Says he one blowy June day.
“The sun is God’s promise.
The rain is God’s kindness.
A well-plowed red Island field
May well be the very face of
Harry wanted to farm the old way.
“Then get yourself an old
farmer,” says I.
He never missed a beat.
“I’d say I just did that very
He was a sharp bugger, that Harry.
God we had some
I was near forty the year Lilly
and I took on Harry’s farm.
Lilly-Belle was twenty seven.
We were a queer bunch, when I
think on it.
There’s no fool like an old fool.
Gone were the days of Spootniks
Gone were the days of drunken
Gone were the days of near
freezin’ to death in the ditch.
Lilly made the house and barns
The lawns and that a real show
Won the Rural Beauty-fication
We got on somethin’ dandy.
We done excellent.
What with Harry’s salary,
With hard work, and the grace of
God and Nature,
Things was bloomin’ every where a
I can’t remember bein’ happier.
Then come February 16, 1966.
Two things happened that same day.
One good, one bad.
Word come form the welfare in town
That Lilly’s drunk husband Doug
Froze to the sidewalk in Toronto.
That was the good news.
She was six months along and I
was gettin’ desperate.
She waltzed out to the barn,
Told me to change me shirt,
And slick back my hair.
We went to Souris that afternoon
I’d been takin’ ‘How to be a
Catholic’ lessons, just in case, eh.
We got married by His Holiness,
The queer priest from
The priest that Iris the pig
One frosty night in Dunstaffnage.
But that’s another story.